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Radon in the Home: How Do You Stop It?

You can't see it or smell it, but it's everywhere. Radon is a naturally occurring gas that comes from the breakdown of Uranium in soil and rocks. Radon becomes a problem when it seeps into homes and gets trapped.

Radon can get into a home through cracks in the floors or walls, construction joints and gaps around pipes.

The American Lung Association has known for a long time the dangers of radon exposure. Pat McKone, the director for mission programs, promotes awareness of this deadly gas.

"The lung health risk for radon is one, and only one, and it's lung cancer," explains McKone.

Similar to smoking, direct exposure to radon does not immediately cause cancer. It is a long process that can take years. But a combination of being a smoker and being exposed to radon greatly increases the risk for developing lung cancer.

"When you breath in radon gas," explains McKone, "and it has not had it's nuclear life of breakdown, it actually continues to break down or have little explosions at that cell level within your lung."

This process can ultimately lead to lung cancer. Radon is estimated to cause about 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year, which is second only to smoking.

Hot spots for higher levels of radon are found all over the country. The Northland is considered to be at a moderate risk for higher levels. Marv Roberts, a homeowner in Duluth, found out he has high levels of radon in his home through a radon testing kit.

"That test came back higher than would be ideal," says Marv. Marv had a reading of 15 picocuries per liter (pCi/L), a measure of the amount of radon in the air in his home. A very high reading despite Marv installing an exchanger that replaces household air with fresh air. The EPA says any level above 4pCi/L is considered to be unhealthy. Marv now must look for ways to fix the problem.

"Obviously it's a significant concern," says Marv. "I've got a new granddaughter, I'll be retiring, and I don't want to be living in a contaminated home."

Marv is considering what's called a mitigation system. It's essentially a fan that targets radon and safely pumps it out of the ground under the home before it seeps inside.

Mitigation systems can cost upwards of $1,000 to $2,000. Marv says for peace of mind, it's probably worth the investment.

You can easily find out if you have high levels of radon in your home. A radon testing kit can be found in most home improvement stores. They cost about $10-15. Once the testing is done, the results are then sent in to a company that comes up with a radon level. If a high level is shown, a mitigation system may be your best option to rid your house of radon gas.

View this news segment: http://www.wdio.com/article/stories/S2367128.shtml?cat=10335